Pacific practices inform wellbeing resource

Issue: Volume 99, Number 12

Posted: 31 July 2020
Reference #: 1HA9Nx

A new health and wellbeing teaching resource that focuses on Pacific practices shows how students can use their own cultural experiences and knowledge to learn about models of wellbeing.

Gloria Tu'itupou

Gloria Tu'itupou

The Making connections with Pacific ideas in Health Education teaching resource has been based on the Health and Physical Education Scholarship report of Gloria Tu’itupou, a Year 13 student at Tamaki College in 2019, who was awarded Top Scholar for her work.

Gloria’s report, ‘Navigating Vā in search of Connection: The Kahoa (Lole) – Reconnecting with self, others, society and land through an exploration of Pasifika culture’ is a critique of the familiar ‘lolly lei’ and what happens when Pacific communities in New Zealand make use of accessible local resources to carry on cultural traditions, and the implications of this for wellbeing. 

Rethinking kahoa lole

Gloria explores the cultural significance of kahoa lole (lolly lei) at significant events and argues that kahoa lole has developed into a distortion of Pacific culture as Pacific people have assimilated with western society and become disconnected from their land and traditions.  

Originally the garlands were made from natural materials – shells, leaves, flowers – but there has been a cultural shift in the past 20 years or so and kahoa lole are now presented throughout New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

“The report is trying to develop our Pacific communities’ critical thinking about the way we are developing our culture and being aware of how important it is to do that in a way that’s not undermining our health,” explains Gloria.

“It’s a bit of a controversial opinion in the Pacific space as we really hold kahoa lole in high esteem. It’s our way to express our love for each other, but I think if we break it down and think of all of the facets of presenting kahoa lole, it’s unintentionally affecting us in negative ways.”

Alternative models of wellbeing

It’s important to promote alternative models of wellbeing and bring Pacific knowledge into the academic space, comments Gloria.

She writes in her Scholarship report that Te Whare Tapa Whā Model and Fonua (holistic Tongan model of wellbeing) dispel the myth that only western ideologies can be central to health and wellbeing practices. They provide alternative ways to cultivate valid, reliable and ultimately life-saving cultural knowledge and practices that uphold the wellbeing of minority communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I think people tend to disregard indigenous models of health and wellbeing as not being scientific, but in actuality they provide a really holistic view of health, compared with more western models that don’t really recognise the diversity within Aotearoa,” she says.

Gloria, who hails from the village of Kolomotu’a in Tonga, is studying science at the University of Auckland and is particularly interested in Pacific wellbeing and how positive health outcomes can be achieved for her community and people. 

Kato (basket) of activities

The New Zealand Health Education Association (NZHEA) felt the themes and ideas in Gloria’s report lent themselves to ideas for health education learning in Pacific contexts at Year 9 and 10 level, says Rachael Dixon, co-chairperson of the association.

Gloria’s report is rich with health education ideas and how these link with the Pacific world – in particular her Tongan world. Rather than confining this work to a resource that supports specialist senior secondary health education, it was seen as an opportunity to use student writing in a way that could benefit junior students.

Making connections aims to provide a collection of teaching and learning activities where students can use their cultural knowledge and resources as an integral part of their learning. 

Learning activities include class members making a facsimile of a tivaevae (patchwork) representing guidelines to ensure students feel safe in the classroom. Another activity based on Te Whare Tapa Whā model suggests students construct their own model of wellbeing: a range of factors important for each student’s wellbeing can be included into the design of a tapa cloth.

“We always like to capitalise on the real-life authentic nature of the subject with our learners and if we are able to do that in culturally responsive ways, all the better. Hauora, as based on Te Whare Tapa Whā, is one of the underlying foundations of Health and PE, so it is important to be able to bring in also other Pacific ideas around health and wellbeing,” says Rachael.

Respecting different points of view

NZHEA hadn’t previously produced a strongly Pacific-based resource, or one which uses student research and recommendations as a springboard for teaching and learning activity ideas.  

“We felt that the themes and ideas that were in Gloria’s report lent themselves nicely to ideas for health education learning in a Pacific context at Year 9 and 10 level. Her report talked specifically about Fonua - the Tongan model of health and wellbeing. That’s different from an individualised ‘you are responsible for your own physical health’ idea towards that whole ‘connectedness of us and our environment’,” says Rachael.

“Being able to draw on other people’s understanding and knowledge is important in health education because a lot of the work we do is strengths-based, discussion-based; taking time to appreciate other people’s points of view, and having the opportunity to speak to your own world views as well. It’s very much about developing respect for other people’s points of view and their different beliefs,” she says.

The curriculum resource has been written by NZHEA, Kata O’Donnell, teacher in charge of health education at Tamaki College and PLD facilitator, and health education specialist Jenny Robertson. The artwork has been contributed by current Tamaki College head boy Vaifoa Lam Sam.

Making connections with:

Art reflects Pacific values 

artMaking connections with Pacific ideas in Health Education includes two pieces of art by Vaifoa Lam Sam, current head boy of Tamaki College. He hopes to pursue a career in the creative field as either a graphic designer or video game artist.

Of the cover art he writes: (This) is a digital painting that reflects on the traditional kahoa [garland] with cultural floral designs in the background and a female portrait in the centre to model the kahoa but to also represent the women who have created this resource.

Tamaki College head boy Vaifoa Lam Sam created these artworks that feature in the Pacific health education resource.

Tamaki College head boy Vaifoa Lam Sam created these artworks that feature in the Pacific health education resource.

“The paintings express the concept of Pacific wellbeing, i.e. Te Whare Tapa Whā Model and Fonua (holistic Tongan model of wellbeing) through the traditional Pacific and Māori patterns, along with the symbols and colours that I have used in both paintings. The cover painting expresses the concept of Pacific wellbeing, mostly through the physical and spiritual attributes of Te Whare Tapa Whā Model, that recognises and focuses on the beauty of our culture,” explains Vaifoa.

New Zealand Curriculum links 

Tapasā: Cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners (Ministry of Education, 2018) provides an opportunity to understand how Pacific cultural contexts can feature as part of health education pedagogy.

Making connections with Pacific ideas in Health Education focuses on the underlying concepts of Health and Physical Education (HPE) learning:

  • Hauora as a holistic concept of wellbeing, including consideration of physical wellbeing/taha tinana, social wellbeing/taha whānau, mental and emotional wellbeing/taha hinengaro and spiritual wellbeing/taha wairua. 
  • Socio-ecological perspective, which develops students’ understanding of the inter-relatedness and connections between individuals (self), others, communities, and society as a whole. 
  • Health promotion: the process of taking action to maintain or improve wellbeing, which requires knowledge of personal and interpersonal skills that enable people to act individually and collectively to promote wellbeing. 
  • Attitudes and values focused on are those that occur when we take action to promote wellbeing for self and others such as  showing respect, care and concern for self, others and society, acting in ways that are fair and inclusive, and actions that reflect the values of social justice.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 AM, 31 July 2020

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